December 9, 2010
Duke and his aces: exemplary performance
Here's the Ellington orchestra in full swing, circa mid 1950s -- playing a lot of its standing repertoire, but showing why the music has enduring appeal. Featured: swaggering tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves, smooth altoist Johnny Hodges, driving drummer Sam Woodyard, superb Jimmy Hamilton (nice feature on "Honeysuckle Rose" with the other horns riffing behind on Charlie Parker's melodic complication of it), Harry Carney, Cootie Williams, the "piano player" himself and his right-hand man, Billy Strayhorn. I love especially the version of "Cotton Tail" starting at 31 minutes in. For an hour plus of 20th century America's hardest working but most elegant vernacular composer-ensemble leader, this video is tops.